Chapter 17: A Pick Pocket
Copyright© 2005 by Argon
Historical Sex Story: Chapter 17: A Pick Pocket - This is set twenty years after the events of "In the Navy". The lives of Anthony Carter and his family are turned topsy-turvy by the arrival of Ellen, a young shepherdess. Follow the lives of the Carters and their friends and relatives during the late regency era and explore foreign countries and cultures with them. History is not necessarily dry!
Caution: This Historical Sex Story contains strong sexual content, including Ma/Fa mt/ft Fa/ft Teenagers Consensual Romantic Rape Lesbian Heterosexual Historical Tear Jerker First Oral Sex Masturbation Petting
It was close to midnight in the streets of Portsmouth on this memorable day in 1814. 17 year-old Emily Watson was torn between resignation and the fear of returning home without anything to show for her efforts. Her mistress expected her to bring home valuables or, preferably, coined money. Today had seemed promising. The public announcement of the Emperor Napoleon’s surrender and the end of twenty years of war had driven out crowds of Navy officers and sailors as well as the citizens of Portsmouth to drink and celebrate. The bands of drunken sailors crowding the streets and ale houses had proven too dangerous for a frail girl of seventeen. She could not approach them closely enough to pick their pockets, fob watches and the like without running the risk of being grabbed. For in the general madness of the victory celebrations, even the constabulary was drunk and the sailors felt justified to do as they pleased, seeing that they had born the worst hardships to clinch that victory.
Across the street were the Long Rooms, a famous officers’ club, where the well-to-do naval and army officers were doubtlessly celebrating too. Emily could not hope to get access there - the club was gentlemen only – but she decided to wait outside for her chance, since the club’s owner had posted sentries at the entrance to prevent drunken sailors from gaining access. She reasoned that she was relatively safe in their presence. She was also hoping to pluck one of the guests as they were leaving. She knew that she would have to wait, but staing here was better than her other prospects.
Her thoughts drifted back to her parents. What would they think if they knew that their precious daughter had turned thief? A little over a year ago, her father, a physician and apothecary in the small town of Southwick, some miles north of Portsmouth, had contracted the dreaded smallpox, the plague, and had died within days. He was followed soon by her mother who had taken care of her sick husband. Her father’s younger brother had taken charge of her and of his brother’s possessions. He moved into his brother’s house with his family arguing that this way Emily could remain in her home.
In the beginning, he did not treat her badly, far from that. Soon however, he was taking an improper interest in his niece. The sixteen year old was a pretty girl. He made it a habit to visit her room to say good night and to hug her. When, one evening, she asked him to stop that, he acted insulted and accused her of being ungrateful. He soon talked himself into a fit of rage and started to slap her face. Emily had never been beaten and stood in shock whilst her uncle began to tear at her nightshift. When his sweaty hands touched her small breasts however, she snapped out of her shock. Whilst fighting off his hands with her left, she grabbed a candleholder from her nightstand with her right and, with a strength surprising in such a frail girl, she hit her uncle, knocking him out cold with the heavy brass implement.
The blood was running from her uncle’s temple and she was sure that she had killed him. Panic filled her. Nobody would believe her if she claimed self defence. She quickly dressed and stuffed a small bag with some clothes and personal belongings. Quietly, she made her way out of her father’s house. She slept in the barn of a farmer and early in the morning, she was on her way to Portsmouth. A friendly old man gave her a ride on his cart and by early afternoon she was alone in this bustling navy port.
She found a room in a boarding house and started to look for employment. Her first idea was to serve in a doctor’s office. She had picked up enough from her father to be useful, but women were frowned upon in the medical professions and she was turned down everywhere. She then tried to find herself a position as a maidservant in some of the bigger households, but she was altogether too pretty and therefore was refused by the ladies of the households.
She was running out of money fast and soon an evening came when she had to leave the boarding house. She did not know where to go and roamed the streets aimlessly. It was already dark when she ran into her fate. Turning a corner, she bumped into two drunken sailors who considered this an invitation.
She begged them to leave her alone, she cried for help, but the two men dragged her towards a dark alley. She shrieked for help again and one of the men slapped her face hard. Through the mist of pain she suddenly heard a stream of foul language. Looking up, she saw a stout older woman beating the two drunkards mercilessly with a heavy oaken walking stick. They were too drunk to offer any defence against the resolute woman and took to flight, receiving the last blows on their backs.
“Wot are ye doing ‘ere at night, lass?” asked the woman.
Emily explained her situation and she noticed a sudden gleam in the old woman’s eyes.
“Come wit’ me, lass,” she said. “Ye’ll have to work fer yer livin’ but ye’ll be save wit’ me.”
With that, the woman took the lead and led young Emily to her house. It was a rather big house, not in the best part of the city to be sure, but solidly built and well kept. Emily was led into a large common room and found several girls and young women sitting around a table. Emily gasped. For a moment, she was sure she had been lured into a whorehouse. The old woman cackled when she saw Emily’s reaction.
“No worries, my lass. Them’s me girls. Ye won’t find no man ‘ere in this ‘ouse of mine. Ladies, this ‘ere’s Emily. She’ll board wit’ us. Sit down, lass.”
This was how Emily became a member of Mistress Durning’s sisterhood. The old woman kept her word and she was given a bed in a room with another girl her age, Millicent, and her virginity was never safer than under the old shrew’s protection. The surprise cameon the next morning when Mistress Durning explained what her work would be. She had to learn the trade of a pick pocket, and since this was a difficult art, she was to practice it under Miss Durning’s tutorship. In the meantime, she was to earn her keep by playing the bait in a honey trap. She was to stand helplessly at a corner down by the harbour. When an unfortunate sailor came along and approached her, she shrieked for help. Then Miss Durning and another older woman of her gang came down on the poor sap like a ton of bricks, screaming, cussing, and beating him mercilessly. In the process, the poor man’s purse would vanish miraculously, together with any other valuables he might carry on him. Emily became quite good at playing the innocent victim and in most cases the two women were even helped by bystanders who would drag the poor men to the constabulary. All the while she was practising the moves and tactics of a pickpocket. Soon she was allowed on the tours with the other girls to provide backup. Then came an evening when Emily made her first grab, a purse with almost 25 shillings and a gold sovereign to boot. That evening, they celebrated Emily in the common room and she received a third of the loot. One-third went to the mistress and the rest was divided among the sisterhood.
In the months to come, Emily became better and better, she learned the tactics and she gained confidence. Soon she became one of the more successful members of the sisterhood more than earning her living. Emily was excited. She was accepted by her “sisters”, she lived comfortably having a room of her own now, and she felt completely safe for the first time since her parents’ death. Of course, it could not go well for long.
One evening, she acted as backup for young Millicent, her former roommate, who was to make her first grab. Millicent was nervous. Her hands were never as steady as Emily’s during practice, but now her nerves failed her completely. Her victim caught on to her clumsy move and held her by the scruff of her neck. Too late she tried to plead with the man; other bystanders had already alerted a constable on his rounds. Emily gasped when she saw that it was the feared Constable Burrows. He took the statement of the irate citizen and dragged poor Millicent away.
Emily and the others ran home to alert Mistress Durning. Ther woman rushed to the constabulary and demanded that her niece be released into her custody, quietly slipping a few coins to the sergeant. Unfortunately, Burrows and his prisoner had not shown yet, and Mistress Durning had to wait for four hours until Burrows appeared. He was dragging a Millicent behind him who was doubled over in pain. Her face was a bloody mess and her dress was torn in many places, with blood stains on the skirt. In this condition she was returned to Miss Durning with a strong admonishment to educate her better. They need not have worried. Millicent died a week later from mortification and from the wounds she had suffered at the hands of the brutal constable. Emily had spent most of her free time with her friend and had heard the story that she told in her lucid moments. The constable had taken her to an empty house, torn off her clothes, and raped her repeatedly and brutally. When her vagina was all torn and bloody, he had even penetrated her behind to ‘teach her a lesson’.
Emily was horrified. Her nerves were wrecked and she could not work anymore. Whenever she tried a grab, Millicent’s violated body appeared before her eyes and she could not control her nerves and her hands. Repeatedly, she saw Constable Burrows on his beat and cold fear gripped her when she saw him swaggering along the alleys. She was certain that she would be the next to be caught by him and violated.
For a few weeks, Mistress Durning was patient with her. However, when Emily returned home empty handed day after day, her patience soon wore out and she began to chastise Emily, first with words and then with beatings. That morning, Emily had been sent out with the threat of being thrown out lest she brought in loot.
Emily snapped out of her brooding. Gay voices could be heard from the entrance of the club across the street. She saw a small group of high Navy officers, four captains, exit the Long Rooms. It was obvious that they were not overly drunk, but Emily decided that she had to try now or never. Approaching the men, she faked a stumble and got a hold of a uniform coat, pretending to try to catch her balance. Politely, she excused herself, rightened herself and tried to walk on. A strong grip on her shoulder made her stop in her tracks.
“Please let me go, Sir, you are hurting me,” she pleaded.
“Ah, I would but I cannot let go of my purse, young miss,” came the friendly reply. “Surely you have taken it by accident. Now be a good girl and return it to me.”
Emily looked into the face of the navy officer, a captain, and tried to keep the panic out of her voice.
“Excuse me Sir, somehow your purse must have hooked onto my hand when I stumbled.”
Her excuse sounded ridiculous even in her own ears.
“Sure, girl, purses do that on their own,” came the captain’s sarcastic reply.
“Excuse me Sir,” interjected one of the doormen of the club, “we have alerted the constable, Sir, and here he comes.”
Emily whirled around and what she saw let her heart miss a few beats. It was Burrows who came swaggering towards them. She tugged desperately at the coat of the captain.
“Please, Sir, don’t hand me over to that Constable, Sir. I’ll do anything. Just don’t hand me over. He’s a bad man. He killed my friend. Please, protect me Sir, I’ll do anything!”
Her feverish whisper died away. Burrows was there.
“Now wot have we ‘ere? Another thieving brat. I’ll teach you, girl, just as I taught that other one!”
A whimper came from Emily’s chest and she looked around feverishly for a chance to escape. Burrows seemed to be in a hurry. He stepped forward to apprehend the girl, but in the middle of his forward movement he was thwarted by the captain.
“Thank you, Constable, but I am quite able handle the situation myself. After all, no damage was done. I shall not press charges, so there is no need for you to get involved. Take this half sovereign for your trouble and have a good night!”
Andrew Lambert, Captain R.N., was in an exceptionally good mood. He had dined well and in good company. Captain Sir Anthony Carter had been his commander way back when he was a junior lieutenant, and he was his brother in law to boot; and the other two captains had been part of the channel fleet like himself, in Portsmouth for necessary repairs. They had met at the Long Rooms at lunchtime to play a game of cards, but then the news of Napoleon’s surrender had made all plans obsolete. They had celebrated, quietly, because of the relief they felt. They had discussed the future of the Royal Navy in the new situation. The conversation with Sir Anthony had given him a perspective of what to come. The most important thing was that he could not expect a seagoing command, now that the Navy would be reduced to a peace establishment. Not that he was sorry about that.
Ten days ago, his ship, the 74 gun ship of the line Prometheus, had sailed into Portsmouth harbour for a refitting. It was clear now that Prometheus would be the first ship of the Channel Fleet to be paid off.
He was not really wealthy, but his earnings of prize money had given him enough financial backup, and he was looking forward to enjoying his modest wealth and his standing in society in a world at peace. All in all, he felt good.
When they left the Long Rooms, he noticed the approaching girl, wondering what such a young girl was doing out on the streets after midnight. When the girl stumbled, his instinct was to help her. His keen alertness, trained in years of fighting, made him notice though that his purse was missing, and he reacted quickly. He was more amused than angry with the girl. He had never seen a female pick pocket and he looked at the girl curiously. He was just contemplating what to do with her when the arrival of the constable was announced. He noticed the look of sheer terror in the eyes of the girl and her hoarse whisper when she pleaded with him not to turn her over. Another thing – he could smell her fear. Even if she was a good actress, she could not fake that.
Captain Lambert was an old hand at fear. He had smelt it time and again when expecting an enemy’s broadside on board His Majesty’s ships. In recent years he had begun to feel growing apprehension when they closed in on an enemy, and it had troubled him.
Courage is a commodity reduced by spending, and Captain Lambert had been spending heavily in his 15 years in the Navy. He had seen his shipmates smashed into red pulp by round shot or torn to shreds by flying wood splinters. He’d had his share of hand to hand combat, he had even fought a duel. He felt a strange sympathy for the scared girl.
He looked at the constable and he disliked him immediately. A big brute of a man with a huge moustache and cruel grin, he was looking at the girl with lecherous eyes. That was why the captain interceded.
Constable Burrows glared with malice at the captain who had stayed him. He wanted that girl. He had not had one for weeks and this one would have been perfect. He did not dare though to oppose a high and mighty Navy captain, let alone four of them, all richly clothed. With just one word to his sergeant they could make his life truly miserable.
He therefore bowed, took the money offered and went his way. He was angry though and he cursed the officer who had deprived him of his prey. He did not notice the older woman who approached him until she spoke up.
“Where’s my girl Emily?” Mistress Durning asked with a stone face.
“Wot’s it of your business, old hag?” Burrows retorted.
Just then a heavy skillet impacted on the back of his head and he sank to his knees. Blood was on his fingers when he touched his skull. A second blow with the skillet smashed those fingers, and a third finished him off.
“Well done, Gracie,” commented Miss Durning to her accomplice who had sneaked up on Burrows from behind. “Now he can fry in hell.”
They quickly left the scene and returned to their home. They had not found Emily as they had intended when someone alerted them of Emily’s arrest, but they had exacted revenge for Millicent. That alone was good enough and Emily might still find her way home. If not, well, she was not that valuable to them anymore with all the nerves that she had shown in the past months.
The coach lurched over the cobbled stones of the streets of Portsmouth. Emily sat frightened in a corner and studied the man who had first caught her and then saved her from Burrows. He appeared to be in his early thirties, with the mahogany skin of a sailor. His beard was well groomed and he wore his long reddish hair in a neat queue. It was difficult to gauge his size in the coach, but she remembered him to be quite tall, almost six feet. In the dark, she tried to read in his face. She did not know whether she had jumped from the frying pan into the fire when she had asked him to save her. He might be worse than Burrows for all she knew. With screeching brakes, the coach came to a halt. Emily looked out and saw the entrance to a large town house. The coachman jumped from his seat and rapped the door. It took only a minute until a livered man opened the door. Emily was ushered into the house by the captain and led into a candle-lit room, obviously the main saloon.
“Sit”, the captain ordered her, and she sat down in an upholstered chair.
A slender woman appeared, wearing a gown over a nightshirt, long hair flowing over her shoulders. She cast a glance at the girl and the captain and stated drily: “Now look what the cat’s brought home.”
“A young lady who promised me to do whatever I wanted if I just saved her from a mean looking constable who was about to arrest her. Since you have requested a help for the kitchen, my dear Mrs. Benson, I thought she could pay her dues by helping to prepare my meals. That should also serve to keep her out of trouble.”
He grinned, first at Mrs. Benson and then at the girl. “But first, Mrs Benson, may I trouble you to find some food for this girl. She seems to be in need of a bite or two. Meanwhile, whilst you are looking after that, I shall interview our new help.”
Mrs Benson left after a look at her employer and Emily was alone with the captain.
“Now, my girl,” he said, “let us have the story of your life. Just the facts. Who are you, where do you come from, why did you snatch my purse? Kindly speak the truth. I have the means to check what you say and if I catch you in a lie, I can still turn you over to that worthy constable who seemed to have taken such a liking to you. If I am satisfied that you speak the truth, I shall allow you to stay in my house and work under Mrs. Benson. You will have a living and an honest way to earn it.”
Emily thought but for a moment. This was the chance she was not given when she first came to Portsmouth. She looked at the captain and he seemed sincere in his offer. She gulped once and decided to take her chance. Almost anything was better than the life in fear that she had led during those last months.
“I am Emily Watson, daughter of Edward Watson, apothecary and physician in the village of Southwick. My father and mother died of the smallpox last spring, and his brother, my uncle, took care of me...”
In monotonous voice, for she was dead tired, she related her story, how she fought off her amorous uncle, fled to Portsmouth, found no job and came to join Mistress Durning’s “sisterhood”. She told him about poor Millicent and how her nerves were ruined after that. When she finished, Mrs. Benson who had returned with food and heard most of the story, dried her eyes and hugged the girl.
“You poor thing, alone in the world and persecuted by evil men and women. Don’t worry any more, child. You will be safe in this house. Have a bite to eat, and then I shall show you to your room upstairs. It’s side to side with my own room.”
Andrew Lambert was silent. The girl’s story had reawakened bitter sweet memories in him. Again, an orphaned girl, down on her luck, had been thrown into his path. The first time, he had woefully failed to appreciate his luck, had thrown away his happiness for lack of courage.
The wonderful woman, Lucy Gutteridge, had left him when he had shown himself unworthy of her love, and the memory still hurt. She was happily married now and her husband was a prominent London surgeon. He saw her frequently because she was a close friend of his sister, and every time he met her he asked himself how things may have evolved back then if he had not been ashamed for his love to a poor orphan girl.
As it was, he was considered a confirmed bachelor by his family, much to the chagrin of his parents. He could not help it. His second engagement, to a young woman from a prominent family, had ended in a complete disaster after just a few weeks. In the aftermath, his future father-in-law had shot himself, his prospective mother-in-law had to be committed to an asylum for the insane, and the brother of the girl, the driving force behind the engagement, was blown to bits during a suicide mission on the French coast for which he had volunteered.
The captain forced himself out of his reverie and smiled wryly when he saw his housekeeper taking charge; he knew better than to interfere. He bade both women Good Night and retired to his own bedroom. It had been an eventful day. Soon he heard both women climbing the stairs to the upstairs servant’s quarters. To brush away the disquieting thoughts he told himself that he had merely secured a household help to keep Mrs. Benson off his back.
When Andrew Lambert awoke it was late morning. He grinned to himself, resting in bed lazily and hearing the distant bustle in the streets. He was permanently on leave. There was a more than even chance that he would never again have to get up at sunrise if he did not want to. Before his mental eye, a hearty breakfast appeared, bread rolls, ham and egg, jam, everything fresh. This was luxury to a man who had lived on salted pork, pea soup and maggot-ridden ship biscuit for most of his life. He pulled the bell and sat up. Moments later a girl showed and looked at him silently and with apprehension.
“Who the hell are you?” he asked gruffly before comprehension dawned upon him. “Wait, you’re the Watson girl with the quick fingers. Get me fresh water for shaving and tell Mrs. Benson I’ll have a full breakfast with coffee, ham and eggs, sausages and bread! Tell her I’ll have it in half an hour latest. Now jump to it!”